Seduction by a highwayman seems to best way out of her problems – But they are only just beginning.
Those Scandalous Ravenhursts – A Short Novella
Becoming utterly compromised appears to be the only way out of Miss Sarah Tatton’s unwelcome betrothal and the highwayman she encounters seems more than capable of accomplishing her ruin – deliciously. But the green-eyed man in the mask is not what he appears to be and honour, desire and disgrace are a tangled web for Sarah’s Ravenhurst friends to unravel. Yet even the most unequal match is possible with love and a scandalous disregard for convention.
‘Stand and deliver.’
A highwayman? They really said that? Sarah discovered her mouth was open and shut it. The figure confronting her was straight off any broadsheet telling the shocking stories of Dick Turpin or “Hell” Hawley. A big, ugly grey horse, a tricorne hat, a cloak thrown back over his shoulders despite the heat and a black mask covering the upper half his face.
She dragged Sir Jeremy’s string of pearls over her head and held it out. He was welcome to them.
‘No, I don’t want those, sweetheart.’ His voice was amused, educated and deep: it seemed to resonate at the base of her spine. A gentleman gone to the bad?
From somewhere she found her voice. ‘What do you want then?’
‘One kiss and a little token to show for it.’ He urged the horse up alongside her mare and she realised it was not just the horse that was big. She made herself sit still and not flinch away.
And then she found she did not want to. ‘A kiss?’ He was clean-shaven, his teeth white as he smiled in the evening light. The breeze brought her not the rank smell of unwashed robber that she had been expecting, but the clean odours of leather and citrus. ‘It is not gallant to jest! You may have the pearls and welcome.’
‘No.’ He took the pearls in an ungloved hand and dropped them back around her neck, holstered the pistol and leaned towards her, doffing his hat. ‘I do not jest.’
His hair was dark brown, over-long, waving from the pressure of the hat. His eyes were green, shadowed by the mask, and yet when he smiled she could just see the laughter lines in the corners, the humour.
‘Just one kiss?’
He nodded as she bit her lip in indecision, his mouth curving in a way that made her want to touch it. ‘If you will grant it. I do not steal from women.’
What if she should kick her heels and send the mare plunging past him? He leaned down and took the rein as though he could read her mind. Sarah stared at him, wondering why she did not scream. He really was a very strange highwayman. And she was in a very strange mood. She was conscious of her heart beat – that was trepidation, no doubt – but what to make of the warm feeling low in her belly or the fact that her lips were dry? Sarah licked them and saw his eyes follow the movement.
‘Why have you a corn dolly in your buttonhole?’
‘A token from the donor of my second kiss. It is a fertility symbol, I believe, but don’t worry, kisses are harmless.’
An interesting definition of harmless! ‘Very well. I have nothing better to be doing this evening, after all.’ She tipped up her face, turning her cheek towards him and closing her eyes. And then she felt his breath warm on her skin and realised he really was only going to take what she offered and some madness seized her.
She opened her eyes and moved her head and met the hooded green gaze and his mouth found hers. ‘Oh!’ As she gasped his tongue slid between her lips and his free arm went around her shoulders and he lifted her against him so she was standing in the stirrup while the kiss went on…and on… and the warm evening world spun around her and his heat and the questing invasion of his tongue filled her senses and she gripped his lapels and touched her tongue to his and thought she would faint with the intensity of it.
And then she was back in the saddle and they were looking at each other as though the earth had just shifted beneath them. He seemed to be breathing rather heavily. She rather thought that if she did not loosen her stay-laces that breathing would no longer be possible.
‘Madam,’ he said at last. ‘I must thank you for giving me the most precious thing in your possession. May I ask for a token, also?’
Sarah took hold of three or four hairs that had come down from her topknot of curls, tugged them free and held them out to him. He bowed slightly and curled them with care around the corn dolly. He thought her kiss precious? A highwayman’s opinion of her kiss was certainly more acceptable than Sir Jeremy’s hypocritical valuation of her virginity.
‘Sir, that is not the most precious thing I possess.’ The words left her lips without conscious thought.
‘It is not?’ The green eyes rested on her face.
‘No. I am a virgin.’
The grey tossed its head as though its rider had clenched his hand on the reins. ‘Ma’am?’ She saw him swallow.
‘And that is something of a burden to me, just now,’ she confessed.